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Lodestone Communications
GE2019: Spotlight on… Scotland
Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. First up, Scotland.

 

In 2017, Scottish voters threw Theresa May a lifeline by returning thirteen Tory MPs – up from just one in 2015. This result saved her premiership and gave her the numbers to make a deal with the DUP viable. These gains also demonstrated the impact of the Scottish Conservatives charismatic then Leader, Ruth Davidson. Paired with a Lib Dem fightback (they went from one MP to four and Jo Swinson, current Lib Dem leader, regained her seat after losing it in 2015) and Scottish Labour doing much better too (from one to seven seats), 2017 was a bad year for the SNP.

2017 Results

 

Party

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Seats (change)

 

2017 vote share

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Share change

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2017 votes

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Vote change

 

SNP

 

35 (-21)

 

36.9%

 

-13.1

 

977,569

 

-476,867

 

Conservatives

 

13 (+12)

 

28.6%

 

+13.7

 

757,949

 

+323,852

 

Labour

 

7 (+6)

 

27.1%

 

+2.8

 

717,007

 

+9,860

 

Lib Dems

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4 (+3)

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7.5%

 

-0.8

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179,061

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-40,614

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2019 Projected vote shares

It is very unlikely that the SNP will suffer further losses in the coming election and it is likely that they will regain some of the seats that they lost last time round. Recent YouGov polling puts the SNP on 42% (+5 on 2017) with the Tories on 22% (-7%), Labour on just 12% (-15%) and the Lib Dems ahead of them by a whisker on 13% (+5.5%). YouGov observes that if these shares do not change during the campaign then the 12th December will be the worst result for Labour in Scotland for 100 years.

What does it mean?

In 2017 Scotland saved the Conservative Government from collapse. It is far from certain that the Scottish Tories can be relied upon to repeat this trick. Many Scottish Tory MPs will lose the seats they won just two years ago and on current polling Labour looks set to be almost wiped out too. are factors that might help Tory MPs to cling on, though. Whilst Scotland voted to Remain, 40% of Scots voted to Leave and they are disproportionately concentrated in Tory-held seats. Scotland is one region, therefore, where the Brexit Party standing down in Tory incumbent seats may have a decisive impact in protecting Conservative MPs from being squeezed out. Scottish Labour finds itself between a rock and a hard place on a different constitutional issue: the London leadership’s openness to a second independence referendum makes them unattractive to Unionists whilst firm nationalists are likely to go the whole hog and simply vote for the SNP. It is likely that Nicola Sturgeon will add around another ten MPs to her party’s Westminster presence – making her a big power player in the event that overall we end up with another hung Parliament.

Seats to watch out for on the night:

Using the Lodestone Election Barometer, we have compiled a list of seats for each region that are ones to watch – i.e. particularly marginal or particularly telling about the overall direction of travel on election night. Below are our top picks for Scotland.

Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart (SNP)

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 51,525
▪ Majority: 21
The SNP’s avuncular Pete Wishart slung on here by a whisker in 2017, Perth was just twenty one votes away from returning a Tory MP. On the numbers alone, Wishart looks vulnerable. But the Conservatives are falling back on present polling. If Wishart improves his majority significantly, that’s bad news for the Scottish Conservatives. If they run him close or win, it’s an unexpected disaster for the SNP.

Stirling, Stephen Kerr (Conservative)

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 49,356
▪ Majority: 148
Tory Stephen Kerr won here in 2017 but by a tiny margin – his majority is just 148. Alyn Smith, an SNP MEP and solid media performer, replaced the previous SNP MP as the candidate – to some internal rancour – and this is a key target for the Nationalists. A win here shows them on track. Failure to do so will be a sour disappointment and point to problems with the SNP ground campaign.

Edinburgh South West, Joanna Cherry (SNP)

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 49,390
▪ Majority: 1,097
Edinburgh South West is Alistair Darling’s old seat – when he stood down, in 2015, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry was elected. A barrister, Cherry is the Justice and Home Affairs spokesperson for the SNP at Westminster and has been central to the successful legal challenge to the Government’s proroguing of Parliament this year. The Labour candidate in this key target for the party was forced to stand down after cyber-bullying allegations. A Labour win here would show the party outperforming expectations and – finally – regaining territory in Scotland that it lost in 2015.

Glasgow North East, Paul Sweeney (Labour Co-op)

▪ Total votes cast in 2017: 31,775
▪ Majority:242
In 2015, all (7) Glasgow seats were taken by the SNP in the landslide that wiped out Labour, but as part of the Labour revival at the 2017 election, Paul Sweeney won Glasgow North East with a majority of 242, overturning an SNP majority of 9,222. Sweeney has remained popular in the constituency but the SNP will be keen to take the seat back and have re-selected Anne McLaughlin as their candidate. A loss for Paul Sweeney would be a disaster for Labour and would point to a complete collapse for the party.